Keith Hunt - Prenatal and New Born - Page Seven   Restitution of All Things

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Prenatal and New Born

Some good facts

Continuing with Dr.Meier's book on Christian Child-Rearing:


Prenatal Development

     In spite of the fact that some geniuses weighed only a few
pounds at birth, and that some mentally retarded persons weighed
quite a bit at birth, there are indications in pediatric research
that there is some relationship between higher birth weight and
higher I.Q. If your child didn't weigh much at birth, don't worry
about it. There's not that much of a difference if he gains
enough weight the first six months of life. The significance of
this is that when you are pregnant, you should be sure to eat
some protein every day, to drink some milk, to take vitamin
tablets with iron, and not to smoke cigarettes. It's the quality
of food, not the quantity. The average pregnant woman should gain
about eighteen to twenty pounds during the nine months of
pregnancy, and most of that will be in the last three or four
months.1 Gaining too much weight during pregnancy will make the
baby's delivery more difficult, not to mention what it will do to
your own self-worth and your husband's opinion of you. If you are
already overweight when you get pregnant, you won't need to gain
anything if you eat

[1. J.Robert Willson, et al., "Obstetrics and Gynecology," p.
274. According to Willson, the fetus (1-1/2 lbs), placenta (I to
I-1/2 lbs.), amniotic fluid (1 to 2 lbs.), increase in the size
of the uterus (2 to 2-1/2 lbs.) and breasts (2 to 3 lbs.), and
increased blood volume (3 lbs.), as well as increased
extravascular fluid, make up the eighteen to twenty pounds the
average woman should gain during pregnancy].
     
the proper foods and take vitamins.2  But I don't recommend that
you lose weight during pregnancy. God has arranged your body
physiology so that the developing baby gets what it needs first,
and what's left goes to you.
     The other major area of concern during pregnancy is the
emotional condition of the mother. Depending on background and
experiences, pregnancy, especially the first pregnancy, can be
quite an anxiety-producing experience. All women have ambivalent
feelings about pregnancy when they are pregnant. That's normal.
The worst thing a pregnant woman can do is to feel guilty about
these ambivalent feelings, or to try to convince herself that she
doesn't have them. If she keeps them pent up inside, they will
cause physiological changes in her body chemistry which could
potentially damage her health as well as influence the physical
development and eventual emotional condition of the developing
baby.
     I know a military obstetrician who was treating several
pregnant women with severe cases of toxemia. A couple of them
were near death, according to the doctor. And they weren't
responding to medical treatment. So he told them he was going to
have to abort their pregnancies. They agreed. He anesthetized
them, splattered some blood on them, and sent them back to their
rooms without having done anything at all to them. When they woke
up, they were told their babies had been aborted. They expressed
some brief sorrow, but they all got over their toxemia of
pregnancy.3 The doctor used some faulty medical and legal
judgment in doing what he did, but he wanted to save their lives
and the lives of their fetuses. When the women found out several
days later that they were still pregnant and that the doctor had
lied to them, they were quite angry at him, and he found himself
in considerable trouble with his superior officers.
     This experience implies a relationship between the
unexpressed anxiety conflicts and the autonomic physiological
reactions in the expectant mother. So the best thing a pregnant
woman can do is to be aware of her ambivalent feelings - the
positive and

[2. Ibid.
3. This small (and illegal) research project in no way proves
that all toxemia, of pregnancy are the result of psychic
conflicts. Many physiological foam, are involved, but this
illustration does imply a strong psycho-physiological correla-
tion in these particular women].

negatives aspects of having a baby, the fears of delivery itself,
even ambivalent feelings about being a woman - and to talk them
out with her husband and other significant people in her life.
It's especially good to talk to another woman who has gone
through the same experience, so you can share with each other.
There is absolutely nothing abnormal or sinful about having these
feelings. It would be abnormal if you didn't have them. And they
won't do you any harm if you will talk them out and resolve them.
     Also be sure to meet your other normal emotional and
spiritual needs. Have devotions every day, get plenty of rest,
have your husband take you out once a week or more, listen to
relaxing and preferably Christian music, and keep right on having
the usual amount of sexual intercourse with your husband.4 Some
medical books say to have sex until the last month, and others
say until delivery. Only very old medical books advise cutting
down on sex during pregnancy. The average married couple has sex
two or three times a week, and this a fairly good indicator of
their overall emotional stability and relationship with each
other.

[4. Willson, "0bstetrics and Gynecology," p. 277].

The Newborn

     I enjoyed delivering babies more than any other experience
during my medical school training. It can also be quite an
experience for the delivering mother - a good experience or a bad
experience. It will be whatever you make of it. I don't think it
really matters whether you opt for natural childbirth, caudal
anesthesia, or "twilight sleep." Just do whatever is right for
you without yielding to pressures from anyone else.....
Nonetheless, the general feeling of obstetricians who have
delivered babies in various parts of the world is that American
women are the most immature about childbirth. And as a
psychiatrist, I know that expectations greatly influence the
actual experience. There are tribes in Africa that migrate from
place to place to find food. When they are marching from one area
to another, and one of their women goes into labor, she goes to
the side of the road, squats clown and has her baby, and then
catches up to the rest of the tribe. I have also heard that most
European women have natural childbirth, simply gritting their
teeth during labor pains, whereas many American women scream for
several hours before they find out they are only having false
labor. My wife tells me, however, that if men had to go through
labor, very few families would have more than one child! She may
be right.
     I do think breast-feeding is far superior to bottle-feeding,
especially during the first few months of life. Modern hospitals
today bring the mothers and babies together for breast-feeding if
the mothers request it. During the first few days, the baby
doesn't get much milk from the mother - he doesn't need it. What
he does get is some fluid containing millions of maternal
antibodies that will help protect him against infections.
     Mother's milk is far superior to cows' milk in many ways: it
contains all needed proteins, including a higher quality of
protein, and it's sterile and inexpensive.1 And there is
something about breast-feeding that brings not only physical but
emotional warmth to both mother and baby. Breast-feeding also
causes hormones to be released in the mother that actually cause
the hips to pull back together, restoring her normal figures.2
These hormones (especially the hormone prolactin) also serve as a
natural tranquilizer for the mother, causing feelings of
acceptance toward the child and contentment.3 And although some
women do have smaller breasts after breast-feeding, the average
mother often permanently increases her breast size.
     There are both rewarding and unrewarding ways to breast-
feed. One study was made of fifteen male and fifteen female
newborn babies breast-feeding. Notes were taken on the newborns'
responses as their mothers took them off the nipple.. The study
was continued until they were eight months old. Those babies that
didn't have a satisfactory time at the breast as a newborn, as
measured by crying and thrashing, were also more tense at eight
months, as measured by withdrawal from strange adults and strange
situations. Those babies that were satisfied at the
breast-feeding as newborns, as measured by high but unstressful
activity after nipple withdrawal, were also more active, happier,
and less tense at eight months.4 I don't think nature has any
more beautiful sight than a loving mother breast-feeding her
totally dependent baby, and there is nothing more touching in the
psychological realm than the relationship between a mother and
her baby. Another interesting study was done in which tape
recordings

[1. Mohsen Ziai, ed., "Pediatrics," p. 199.
2. J. Robert Willson, et a1., "Obstetrics and Gynecology," p.
619. 
3. Theodore Lidz, "The Person," p.130.
4. B. J. McGrade, "Newborn Activity and Emotional Response at
Eight Months."]


of thirty-one newborns were played to eight new mothers, forty.
eight hours after delivery. All eight were able to select the cry
of their own infant from the thirty-one recorded.5 A second group
of ten mothers in multi-bed hospital wards following delivery was
observed to see if they woke up at night on hearing their own
baby cry, or for that matter on hearing any baby cry. During the
first three nights, fifteen out of twenty-six waking episodes
were caused by their own baby's cry. After the third night,
twenty-two out of twenty-three were for their own baby.6  I think
that's really a beautiful illustration of the mother-baby
relationship, I know when our children cry at night, I seldom
wake up at all!
     Another study was done to analyze the development of
feelings of attachment in fifty-four mothers during the first
three months of their first child's life. The study showed that
in the first month to six weeks, "the model mother experienced
impersonal feelings of affection toward her infant, whom she
tended to perceive as an anonymous nonsocial object."7 In the
second month, when the infants began to smile and look at things
longer, "maternal feelings intensified and the infant was now
viewed as a person with unique characteristics who recognized his
mother."8  After three months had passed, "maternal attachments
were sufficiently strong to make the infant's absence unpleasant
and his imagined loss an intolerable prospect."9  It is
significant that this investigation revealed that "mothers who
developed an attachment late in time or not at all either did not
want infants or had babies with deviant behavior."10  Thus,
significant things are happening even in the first three months
of life which will affect the eventual adult emotional condition
and personality.
     My advice on having a baby is that you would he much better
off if you wait until you are psychologically ready for one.
Don't have babies because of pressure from parents or friends.
Have them if and when you are emotionally ready to have them.
Studies have shown an increased divorce rate in couples who have
a baby during

[5. D. Formby, "Maternal Recognition of Infant's Cry." 
6. Ibid.
7. K. S. Robson, et a1., "Patterns and Determinants of Maternal
Attachments," p.976.
8. Ibid. 
9. Ibid. 
10. Ibid.]

the first two years of marriage, and a somewhat decreased divorce
rate in couples who have their first baby after at least two
years of marriage. I think it takes a couple of years merely to
adjust to living with each other. So if you've been married less
than a year and your marriage is already floundering, don't have
a baby, hoping that the baby will bring you closer together. It
will probably drive you farther apart. Work out your marital
hang-ups first; think about a family later.
     
     One of the most common problems psychiatrists are called
upon to handle is postpartum depression. This is a rather serious
depression starting soon after delivery and lasting for months,
some times reaching psychotic proportions. Women who suffer from
it need antidepressant medications initially, followed by
long-term counselling sessions to help them accept motherhood.11
Most women feel somewhat let down after delivery. This is to be
expected; after all you have lost some blood and are anemic, and
are now faced with getting up all hours of the night to change
and feed the baby. But that usually takes care of itself if the
mother gets some help, eats right, and catches up on her sleep.
Also, the baby usually settles down to a more regular schedule
within a few weeks. If the baby doesn't settle down to a regular
schedule at one or two months, I think you should do yourself a
favor and settle him down to one. A little crying won't hurt him.
Check with your pediatrician about specific problems in this area
though.

     One more topic I would like to discuss in this chapter is
babies born with congenital abnormalities and how to accept them.

     Fortunately, God has arranged a mother's physiology in such
a way that most fetuses with abnormalities end up as miscarriages
within three or four months of pregnancy. The average mother will
have about one miscarriage for every four or five pregnancies.
But God allows some of these abnormal babies to be born. I'm not
going to debate the theological issue of whether this is God's
directive or permissive will, but I do know that God allows it.
And I know that psalm 139 says that we were designed by God in
our mother's womb .... If my wife and I ever bare a Down's
syndrome child or a child with other congenital abnormalities,
I'm sure we will probably think it is God's directive will,

[11. Allied M. Freedman and Harold I. Kaplan, eds.,
"Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry," pp. 1161-63].

but I don't claim to know the mind of God (see Deut.29:29). I do
know that God is love, and that "all things work together for
good to them that love God, to them who are the called according
to his purpose" (Rom.8:28). I don't think being a psychiatrist
would help me much either, if it happened to me. I would probably
go through the usual stages of disbelief, followed by anger
toward God, followed by anger toward myself, followed by some
degree of grief, and hopefully followed by a resolution of the
conflict, with much greater maturity and understanding than I had
before. It can go the other way, though, and end up in excessive
denial and social isolation. Then there is the problem later on
of deciding whether to put a child with major abnormalities in a
special home, or to keep him or her at home where he or she is
disrupting the entire family's life. There are no clear-cut
answers. I know godly people who have put their handicapped
youngsters in homes and are glad they did, and I know godly
people who have kept them in their own homes and are glad they
did. I personally believe that sometimes it is better for the
severely handicapped child to live in a home where special
training can be given, with parents visiting as needed, but that
in other cases it may be better to keep such a child at home.12

[12. See bibliography references 114, 268, 279, and 380 for
discussions of the mentally handicapped, and references 27, 39,
and 285 for discussions of physically handicapped children].

(Indeed, for such severe handicapped children, much thought,
meditation, prayer, and studying all the facts with the experts
on the subject, should be done by the parents, to determine if
that child should stay at home or be in a special home. The
nature of you as parents and individuals, the situation of your
secular work, time you have or don't have, relatives and friends
to help or not help, other children you may already have or
desire to have, must all be considered, if you find yourself with
a severe handicapped child - Keith Hunt)

                          ......................

Entered on this Website august 2007

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